Archive of December 6, 2012

Irish pro-lifers hold vigil against abortion legislation

Dublin, Ireland, Dec 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Thousands of Irish pro-life demonstrators packed the street outside of the Dáil Eireann in Dublin for a Vigil for Life on Dec. 4, calling on the legislature not to pass any laws that would allow abortion.

“We need to ensure that both our mothers and babies are best protected by banning abortion,” said Niamh Ui Bhrian of the Ireland pro-life group Life Institute.

Attendees at the candlelight vigil included adults, children, college students, clergy and church groups, who asked the government to protect both mothers and their unborn babies.

Some carried signs asking Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny to “keep his pro-life promise” which the Fine Gael party leader made in the 2011 election.

The Irish government is debating an expert group's 58-page report on abortion that advocates abortion legislation and abortion regulation, the Irish newspaper The Independent reports.

The report is a response to a 2010 decision from the European Court of Human Rights that ruled that Ireland’s abortion laws do not protect the pregnant mother’s constitutional right to life, which the Irish Supreme Court established in 1992.

Lawyer Caroline Simons, a member of the vigil organizer Pro Life Campaign, told vigil attendees there is “no going back” once the government implements legislation.

“Any reassurances that you're going to be given over the next two months that abortion won't be introduced and they're going to talk about medical intervention on limited grounds is false,” she said.

Ui Bhrian said such legislation would make Ireland follow the British approach to abortion, a system “anathema” to most Irish people.

Several Catholic bishops attended the rally, including Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam.

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference responded to the expert report on abortion laws in a Dec. 4 statement.

They said abortion is “the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby” and is “gravely immoral in all circumstances.”

The statement distinguished abortion from medical treatments which do not seek to kill the unborn baby, but may put the baby’s life at risk. It also said Irish law and medical guidelines presently allow nurses and doctors to make this “vital” distinction.

While the Irish government has considered changes to abortion law since January, controversy erupted after the Oct. 28 death of Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital. She died of an infection follwing a miscarriage after reportedly asked for an abortion.

The journalist who broke the news about Halappanavar's death has admitted that the first reported version of the story may be based on faulty recollection on the part of the woman's husband.

Kitty Holland's Nov. 14 story for The Irish Times suggested that Savita Halappanavar died because elective abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland. It was headlined “Woman 'denied a termination' dies in hospital.”

Halappanavar's autopsy has revealed that she died of blood poisoning and E. coli ESBL, an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacterium.

Although an investigation into the case is ongoing, pro-abortion rights advocates have contended that an abortion would have saved her life.

Uí Bhriain said the vigil “remembered Savita and her baby, and we mourned the loss of their lives.”

However, she said vigil participants ask that “the media and the political establishment now look at the cynical exploitation of this tragic death of a young mother, and seek to find the facts.”

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Cincinnati Catholic charities stress public-private partnership

Cincinnati, Ohio, Dec 6, 2012 (CNA) - Leaders of 11 Catholic human services providers from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati are calling on lawmakers to protect the poor from the “fiscal cliff” by safeguarding funding to the programs that serve those in need.

The agencies reminded politicians that "it is through a partnership with an adequate federal safety net that the tireless work of our Catholic and all agencies, volunteers, and contributors can more effectively serve those in crisis."

The consortium of agencies said it believes the best arrangement is for government and private religious groups to work together so that “we can more confidently guide those who are struggling to become self-sufficient, so everyone may fully realize the human dignity that God has given us all.”

In a policy statement presented at a Dec. 5 news conference, leaders of Catholic social aid groups repeated the call for federal budget discussions to establish a “circle of protection” around poverty aid programs.

In particular, they said, the needs of the poor must be remembered in discussions surrounding the impending “fiscal cliff” that the country will face in the form of automatic spending cuts and tax increases if Congress cannot agree on a deficit reduction plan by the end of the year.

Among the organizations represented in the statement were Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio, the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Cincinnati, St. Joseph Orphanage, Catholic Residential Services and Healthy Moms & Babes.

Led by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, they stressed the need for both “personal and social responsibility” in addressing the challenges posed by current levels of poverty and unemployment.

Representatives from the agencies also offered comments on the impact that their organizations – working together with government programs – are able to make by serving those in need, regardless of faith.

These services include crisis counseling, job training, educational programs and mental health services, as well as food, shelter and emergency assistance, migration services and support for difficult pregnancies.

“The programs included in the ‘circle of protection’ are not at odds with good fiscal policy and a strong economy,” said Liz Carter, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul, Cincinnati. “Rather, they are perfectly aligned to the long-term goals that are so important to building strong, vibrant communities and a strong nation.”

With nearly half a million Catholics, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati covers 19 counties and includes 214 parishes and 114 Catholic primary and secondary schools.             

“Combined, our Catholic human service agencies served over 415,000 people last year, totaling over $90 million in assistance to those whom Jesus Christ commands us to serve," the agencies noted in their statement.

However, they stressed, even with this tremendous impact, “(a)ll of our agencies together, even in conjunction with the many other secular and faith-based agencies in our communities, cannot meet the material needs of everyone."

Therefore, they explained, Catholic assistance groups in the archdiocese act “in partnership with essential government programs that provide a reasonable safety net to those in crisis while they work to get back on their feet.”

“This is particularly important during our lingering economic downturn,” they observed.

The agencies pointed to three principles offered by the U.S. bishops to guide budget decisions.

These include assessing each budget decision by “whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity” and how it affects “the least of these,” making the needs of the poor, unemployed, hungry and homeless a priority.

Furthermore, the bishops have pointed to a “shared responsibility” between government and other institutions to “promote the common good of all,” particularly workers and families struggling to “live in a manner worthy of their dignity in difficult economic times.”

The Catholic agencies echoed the bishops' acknowledgment that it is in the best interest of the country to “address the impact of long-term deficits on the health of the economy and on future generations,” as well as to efficiently and effectively use the limited resources available.

“However, this important goal must not be achieved at the expense of the dignity of the poor and vulnerable at home and abroad,” they said.

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Wyoming Catholic College dismisses chaplain for misbehavior

Lander, Wyo., Dec 6, 2012 (CNA) - Wyoming Catholic College has discharged its new chaplain Father Stuart MacDonald following the discovery of a “pattern of misbehavior” around students such as excess drinking and bad language.

“I think it’s very sad that this happened. I think it’s particularly sad that it involved a priest of the Catholic Church,” college president Father Robert Cook told CNA Dec. 5.

“I really am very happy that we so quickly and so definitively dealt with this in what I believe was a totally proper and appropriate manner.”

The college discharged the chaplain on Nov. 19 after an investigation found he engaged in “very bad language” and “telling bad jokes” with students.

“He drank excessively with a few of our students who were over the age of 21. He also had conversations with students about very personal matters in front of other students,” Fr. Cook said. “All of this fell well beneath the standard that I require of anyone who works here, faculty, staff, administrators, and certainly the chaplain.”

Fr. MacDonald became the college’s chaplain in mid-August. He is a canon lawyer and a priest of the Diocese of St. Catharines in Ontario, Canada. He was ordained in 1997.

The diocese’s chancery told CNA that the diocese takes “very seriously” all allegations of inappropriate behavior on the party of clergy, staff or volunteers. It has not determined whether the priest will return to any position in the diocese.

Wyoming Catholic College has notified the Department of Homeland Security to terminate Fr. MacDonald’s employment visa.

Fr. Cook said the college began its internal investigation after a former student made a Nov. 10 phone call with allegations about the chaplain. The former student’s complaint involved possible criminal conduct committed by the priest. Fr. Cook told the former student to go to the police “immediately.”

Detective Randy Lutterman of the Lander Police Department confirmed that there was an investigation into Fr. MacDonald.

Lander Police Chief Jim Carey told CNA Dec. 7 that no charges will be filed against the chaplain.

“We are confident, through the evidence that we have received, that no criminal act was committed, however inappropriate,” he said.

The Wyoming newspaper The Daily Ranger reported that Carey said an anonymous letter was sent to individuals and to the Lander Journal claiming that Fr. MacDonald sexually abused students.

But Fr. Cook said the college’s “very thorough” investigation has not found any incidents or accusations of sexual conduct toward any student at Wyoming Catholic College.

The college has informed students and their parents about the improper conduct behind the chaplain’s dismissal. They were “profoundly shocked” and “greatly saddened” by the incident.

Chaplains “have to meet the highest standards, or they have to leave,” Fr. Cook stated. “This college is all about being very Catholic: teaching the students to know and love their Catholic faith, to live morally good lives.

“It is simply unacceptable to have anyone, let alone the chaplain, give a poor or even bad example to them.”

The chaplain had undergone a “very thorough vetting program” and a background check that found no criminal record, while Fr. MacDonald’s bishop had sent a letter stating he knew no reasons that would disqualify him from being a chaplain.

The college president said prospective Wyoming Catholic College students and their parents should feel that the college is “a safe place to go.”

“You cannot escape sin in this world. But when it shows up, if it’s dealt with in a very definitive and clear manner, then that’s a good place to be,” Fr. Cook said.

He said prospective students should be “proud” to go to a college that acted quickly to “protect the educational mission in which we are engaged.”

Updated  Dec. 7, 2012 at 3:05 p.m. MST. Adds commennts to CNA in paragraph 11 from Police Chief JIm Carey about no crime beingg committed.

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Pope expected to have 1 million Twitter followers by launch

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pontifical Council for Social Communications is expecting one million total followers in eight languages when Pope Benedict issues his first tweet on Dec. 12.

"It's not unreasonable to think we'll have reached one million followers by the day of the launch," said Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

"Then, on that day it's likely they'll tweet, which will bring even more people on board," he told CNA Dec. 6.

The current rate at which people are following Pope Benedict’s new @pontifex handle on Twitter is astonishing.

As of Dec. 6 at 10 a.m. Rome time, the Pope had 700,000 followers and about 10,000 new people were adding him to their list per hour the previous day.

Out of the eight languages, the English account has the highest number with over 500,000, which is followed by the Spanish account with nearly 120,000. Pope Benedict will also be tweeting in Arabic, French, German, Italian, Polish and Portuguese.

"We're never going to judge this by numbers, but we're very pleased by the people that have already been signing up, and we're expecting to have a good base by Wednesday," Msgr. Tighe remarked.

"But it's really about the quality of the engagement," he added.

He will write his first tweet after next week's general audience and that will be followed by a question-and-answer session on faith.

But Pope Benedict, who usually gives long speeches on Catholic teaching, will face the challenge of not exceeding 140 characters.

Msgr. Tighe noted that "we've had some negative responses, but we're not worried about that."

"This is all part of a strategy that the Church has to take part in social media to communicate the good news, and this is going to be the tip of the iceberg," he said.

The Vatican already uses YouTube and text messages to reach a younger audience.

It will also soon launch a new mobile application for smartphones, available for free on iTunes, as well as produce e-books.

"The Pope is going to do just like the Gospel reading that talks about the man who scatters the seeds," said Msgr. Tighe, referring to the day's Mass reading.

"Some will scatter and get blown away not having any effect at all, but others will take roots and grow," he added.

According to the Irish priest, this is going to engage people and take some of them by surprise, which will hopefully get them to ask questions and eventually draw them closer to the Gospel.

"The Pope is simply going to use this to get the Gospel out in a world that is deprived of love," he said.

After the Pope issues his first tweet next Wednesday, Vatican aides will write the tweets for him, but he will still approve them.

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Vatican hopes 'Scrinium' trips will spread pilgrimage to young

Rome, Italy, Dec 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican is introducing a set of short trips to holy sites aimed at introducing young people to the concept of pilgrimage and teaching them about the Catholic faith.

"This is a way to reach a different public like younger people, who wouldn’t normally contact Rome’s pilgrim office," said Rosamaria Mancini, manager of the Vatican’s Jospers community, an organization for pilgrims created by the Rome's pilgrim office.

The trips, called "Scrinium," are sold in gift boxes that include a two to three day trip for two people to a holy place, as well as accommodations at a bed and breakfast.

The destinations include Jerusalem, Lourdes, Fatima, Santiago de Compostela and Rome, but could soon include other holy sites in Italy.

“It’s aimed at people who don’t know what a pilgrimage is so that they can have a taste of it,” Mancini explained.

The trips currently being offered are financially supported by the Vatican's pilgrim office and the Italian publishing company Mondadori. They have a value ranging between €59 to €299 euros each, about $77 to $390 U.S. dollars.

Their launch on Dec. 6 included a short trip for local journalists to a holy site in Rome, the Holy Stairs, so that people unfamiliar with pilgrimages could have an "experience," according to Mancini.

The Holy Stairs are 28 steps that were transported to Rome from Jerusalem. They led up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, the place where Jesus stood during his interrogation by Pilate.

CNA took to the streets in Rome to ask Americans if they thought selling short trips would help in evangelizing young people and whether or not they would buy them.

"I have no idea if they will help evangelize young people, but I hope so," said Chris Pratka from Texas.

"Young people have so many issues with the world we live in, so it certainly couldn't hurt," said the 55-year-old, who is visiting Rome.

Eilishe Brown, a 24-year-old from Massachusetts, was not very optimistic about the idea.

"I would imagine that most people who would be willing to do that are already Catholic," Brown said.

"I'm not generally in the practice of evangelizing my friends, so I wouldn't really buy it for them," she added.

But Dorothy Cochran from Georgia believes that the initiative is “an excellent idea.”

"Any opportunity that would allow a young person to increase and enhance their faith should prove important in evangelizing and in offering them an opportunity to get to know more about why they believe and what they believe," the 62-year-old added.

"If I were Catholic I think I would definitely buy it for a friend or family," Cochran said.

And Dave McCourt from New Jersey was also in favor of the idea.

"I think that it's a good thing that the Church can afford to do this and help people to send them to holy and important places."

"If it's reasonably priced and it gives the opportunity for people to see these places, I'm for it," said the 22-year-old.

"I don't know if I would buy it for a friend, but I would definitely buy it for myself," McCourt remarked.


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Catholic jazz legend Dave Brubeck remembered

Norwalk, Conn., Dec 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Fans worldwide are paying tribute to Jazz pianist and composer, Dave Brubeck, who died of heart failure on Dec. 5 in Norwalk, Conn., just one day before his 92nd birthday.

His legendary career as a jazz musician spanned over six decades, beginning during his time as a member of a military band in World War II while under the command of General George S. Patton.

Rising to popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s by touring college campuses, Dave Brubeck was well known for his unique timing signatures and unorthodox rhythm.

His music is often recognized as the defining sound of “cool” or “West Coast” jazz, a term referring to the relaxed tempos found in the new style of music as showcased in his quartet’s 1959 album “Time Out,” which featured the hits “Blue Rondo à la Turk” and “Take 5.”

Although he’s received numerous awards for his jazz music, often overlooked is Brubeck’s masterful career in sacred music.

Highlights included playing for Pope John Paul II during his 1987 visit to San Francisco and being awarded an honorary Doctorate of Sacred Theology for his work from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland in 2004.

Along with creating the first platinum-selling jazz album and being the second jazz recording artist to be featured on the cover of Time magazine, Brubeck was also a husband to his wife, Iola, since 1942 and father to six children, four of whom went on to become professional musicians.

In the 2001 PBS documentary, “Rediscovering Dave Brubeck,” the musician explained his entrance into the Catholic faith.

He said he did not “convert” to Catholicism, but rather “joined the Catholic Church.”

After presenting his sacred music composition, “To Hope! A Celebration,” to several different religious authorities, a Catholic priest pointed out that it was missing the “Our Father.”

Brubeck insisted that the prayer was not needed in his piece, saying that he was leaving soon for a family vacation.

However, while in the Bahamas with his family shortly after, Brubeck said he awoke in the middle of the night and added the prayer.

After that, “I joined the Catholic Church, because I felt, somebody's trying to tell me something,” he said.

“Now, people say I converted. I didn't convert to Catholicism, because I wasn't anything to convert from. I just joined the Catholic Church.”

In a June 13, 2005 article for the NPR piece, “This I Believe,” Brubeck explained his faith in “the ultimate victory of faith, hope and love in a world full of conflict and destruction.”

During his tour U.S. State Department-sponsored tour of Eastern Europe, Brubeck recalled being interviewed on Russian television and “skeptically” asked if peace in the world could ever be achieved.

“I told him that the starting point was for each of us to understand our own religious and cultural traditions, and then open our minds to others, seeking and acknowledging our common roots,” he said.

As a result, he wrote his choral composition based on the Ten Commandments, which is recognized in the Bible, the Torah and the Quran, he said.

“Others of the world's great religions have a similar code of conduct as an essential part of their belief in a higher law,” he noted.

Brubeck’s other religious works include “The Light in the Wilderness” (1968) on the teachings of Christ; “Gates of Justice” (1969) about racial equality; “Voice of the Holy Spirit: Tongues of Fire”  a Marian reflection, and “Upon This Rock” (1987), an entrance for Pope John Paul II’s visit to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.

Brubeck received numerous awards for his music, including a lifetime achievement award from the Grammys in 1996; a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship in 1999; recognition from the U.S. State Department in 2008; and a Kennedy Center Honor in 2009.

Brubeck is survived by his wife, five children and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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Notre Dame's creation of 'GLBTQ' student organization draws concern

South Bend, Ind., Dec 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The University of Notre Dame has established a “GLBTQ” student organization that one critic says is “astonishingly extensive” and provides a potential venue for homosexual activists to undermine Catholic teaching.

William Dempsey, President of the Sycamore Trust, said the university previously opposed a gay student organization because it was “incompatible with its Catholic identity.”

“Few will be credulous enough to think that the school finally got around to considering the matter carefully,” he said in a Dec. 6 e-mail to supporters of his independent organization which aims to preserve and strengthen Notre Dame’s Catholic character.

University of Notre Dame President Father John I. Jenkins on Dec. 5 accepted the Office of Student Affairs’ recommendation to “expand and enhance the support and services for students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (GLBTQ).” The recommendation includes the creation of a university-recognized student organization.

Fr. Jenkins said the goal is “to create and sustain a welcome and inclusive environment for all students.”

“I am confident that this multi-faceted, pastoral approach represents the next step in advancing our efforts toward this aspiration for our GLBTQ students,” he said.

The student affairs office issued a plan that involves the creation of a support and service organization for “GLBTQ students and their allies” whose activities the university says will be “consistent with Notre Dame’s Catholic allegiance and commitments.”

An organization is more permanent in structure than a student club. Unlike student clubs, which can select or change their advisors and bylaws, the advisors for organizations are always appointed.
Notre Dame said it will hire a full-time student development staff member to oversee the organization’s “awareness and education programs” aimed at advancing “inclusion” and sharing Catholic teaching. Student leaders will play a role in the selection of the person hired for the position.

The university will also launch a new advisory council to provide guidance to the vice president for student affairs on the needs of “GLBTQ” students.

The university’s pastoral plan said it will support “out or questioning students” with programs and initiatives from “multiple units on campus” including the Gender Relations Center, Campus Ministry, the University Counseling Center, the Institute for Church Life and student groups, many of which are already active in this area.

These initiatives will involve speakers, conferences, retreats and student groups. 

The university’s pastoral plan said the school calls all students to “chastity in lives of self-giving love.”

But Dempsey of the Sycamore Trust said there is “emptiness” to the university’s statement that it promotes Catholic teaching on sexual morality. He said the plan provides a venue for opposition to Catholic teaching, boosts the gay rights movement, and damages the school’s Catholic reputation.

In an Aug. 22 bulletin, the Sycamore Trust noted that Alex Coccia, a student leader in the push to recognize “GLBT” groups, is a supporter of “gay marriage.”

A March 6, 2012 article in the Notre Dame newspaper The Observer discussed how homosexual students at the school “hook up” and meet “potential romantic partners” in the absence of an officially recognized student group.

Dempsey voiced concern about Fr. Jenkins’ Dec. 5 statements to The Observer which as reported implied that Catholic teaching is not intended to limit the organization’s actions.

Fr. Jenkins said that Catholic teaching is “about the role of sexuality, about intimacy, about human relations, about responsibility to the community, about relationships to the Church.”

“To put this in a ‘Well you can do this, you can’t do that,’ is to distort the issue,” the university president said.

CNA sought comment from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend but did not receive a response by deadline.

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